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PCRC Alert - Moorea Lagoon

Pacific Concerns Resource Centre (PCRC)

Action Alert - 28 February 2000

Protect Moorea Lagoon !

Local residents and environmental activists on Moorea Island in Te Ao Maohi (French Polynesia) are urgently seeking support for their efforts to stop the dredging of Moorea lagoon, for a tourist hotel project.

At the end of February, Moorea residents have surrounded the dredge with canoes to halt the dredging operation. With the support of environment activists from the association Paruru ia Moorea and other groups, the Maohi community in Moorea is seeking to halt the extraction of sand from their lagoon. Please send messages of support and solidarity to the addresses listed below.


In recent years, the Territorial government of President Gaston Flosse in Te Ao Maohi (French Polynesia) has been trying to boost the tourism industry, to generate revenue to replace French military spending that was reduced after completion of French nuclear testing in 1996. Under the Loi Pons and the Loi Flosse, business interests have been given tax write-offs and incentives to build new tourist hotels, even though existing hotels are underused. The Flosse government has faced many charges of corruption, and President Flosse is currently appealing convictions for abuse of office, which could see him barred from holding all public offices.

One investor in tourism projects is the Wan family, which dominates the country's black pearl industry. Robert Wan and his brother Louis have diversified their investments from pearls into tourism, and have developed a contract with the Outrigger chain, which has hotels in Papeete, Bora Bora and Moorea.

The Société Moorea Lagoon Resort, a company controlled by Louis Wan, has purchased the Moorea Lagon hotel at Pihaena on Moorea (the island located next to Tahiti). The company is planning a major reconstruction and expansion project, with plans to dredge the Moorea lagoon to obtain over 10,000 cubic metres of sand for the project - imagine an area as big as two soccer fields! For the cost of hiring a dredge, Wan's company will obtain sand worth US$400,000 from the Pihaena lagoon, for nothing!

Local residents on Moorea have opposed the dredging plan, fearing that it will damage the lagoon, which is one of the environmental delights of the island. They have lobbied the French High Commission, and sought support from local environment and human rights groups. Concerned citizens have gather more than 2,000 signatures on a petition, and obtained support from the Moorea branch of the Eglise Evangélique de Polynésie Française, the largest church in the country.

A range of land occupations and opposition to new tourism construction has become a feature of Maohi society. In the late 1980s, the Japanese company Nishikawa hoped to build a golf course and hotel at Opunohu on Moorea, on land that included a number of marae (sacred sites). Human rights activists from Tahiti joined with church leaders and local communities to form the association Paruru ia Opunohu to oppose the transfer of land. After months of organising, the local community won a referendum to stop the project. Another Japanese hotel project on Tupai was blocked by a land occupation, led by community elders and the community organisation Paruru ia Tupai. Construction of the Rivnac hotel by a subsidiary of Lyonnaise des Eaux and the Meridian group, at Punaauia on the west coast of Tahiti, was delayed by sit-ins and protests between 1996-8.

Recent developments

Wan's permission to mine the sand expired on 21 February 2000, but on 23 February the Council of Ministers of the Territorial Government extended his mining permit for another three months.

In late February, the residents surrounded the dredge with canoes, to halt any dredging operation in Moorea lagoon. Wan responded by taking three environmental associations to court, but his initial application was rejected. Wan's appeal was then heard without notice late in the afternoon of 25 February, and he has asked the French authorities to send in the gardes mobiles (riot police) to clear away the protestors.

According to the court's decision, people on Moorea can be fined US$10,000 for each act of opposition that can be notified to the government's huissier (official bailiff). On the weekend of 26-27 February, the huissier came to Moorea to register the name of everyone who had a canoe in the lagoon. Protestors refused to give their names, and one stated he would "rather die than let this sand go cheap for a hotel beach!"

What you can do:

1) Send messages of solidarity to the people of Moorea and the environmental association Paruru ia Moorea. Messages can be sent to fax/phone (689) 561039 or email:

2) Send messages to the Territorial Government, calling for a halt to dredging in Moorea lagoon and asking that environmental standards be upheld. Messages can be sent to:

M. Gaston Flosse
President and Senator of French Polynesia BP 2551, Papeete, French Polynesia
Fax: (689) 419781

3) For information or further details (in English or French) contact Maire Bopp du Pont


Action alert sent 28 February 2000 from the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre (PCRC). PCRC is the secretariat of the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP) movement.


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